Sunday, October 27, 2013

Book's I've Read This Week

Moon Over Soho is the second book in the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. In it we follow police constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant on a new case. In this one he is investigating the sudden deaths of jazz musician's in London. This is a particular interest to Peter considering his Dad is a jazz musician himself.

I'm really enjoying this magical detective series, so much so I've already read the next two books in this series but more on that next week. If you like Butcher's Dresden Files than this one is for you.
Battling Boy by Paul Pope is simply amazing. I've read through it multiple times now and I pick up new bits in the story and art every time. The book was written for 12 year old boys but it works on many levels and is definitely an all ages hit. For long time comic book fans you will pick up on the homage to Jack Kirby and his work on titles like Thor and the entire New Gods line.

In Battling Boy we have a young god being sent on walk about basically. He needs to grow up and his father sets him a challenge to clean up a world of the monsters that threaten it. During he first challenge we see how new Battling Boy is to his powers and how naive he is. This is a good story about growing up and I can't wait for volume two to be released.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Books I've Read This Week

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell probably would have been better titled Underdog but that title is probably taken. The setup is the biblical story of David and Goliath where the shepherd boy, David, defeats the massive Goliath against all odds to the contrary. Or is is that cut and dried? Gladwell uses this as a jumping off point to examine where perceived weaknesses can be turned into strengths.

Apparently, there is a bit of a controversy surrounding the truthiness of Gladwell's book. Regardless, he's an excellent story teller and this is an entertaining read. 
Hell to Pay by Simon R Green is the 7th book in his Nightside series. I really felt like reading the next book in the Rivers of London series by Aaronovitch but I hadn't had a chance to pick it up and all these Nightside books were still sitting in my stack. This is a passable read, that is all.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Books I've Read This Week

Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun. In the last few years I've had the opportunity to do a lot more public speaking whether it be at local Ottawa events or at conferences across North America. Apparently, I'm not too bad at it as I keep getting asked to do presentations but I really can't tell myself. Here's a secret, once I get up on stage it's not me. No really, some other persona that is not afraid of public speaking takes over and my mind retreats back to it's happy place. Most of the time I can't even tell you what I've said.

That's why I was so intrigued to get and read Confessions of a Public Speaker. I rather enjoyed Mr. Berkun's insights into public speaking. I was also very glad to find out that most people are more afraid of public speaking than death. Actually, that doesn't make much sense but it is a good anecdote. The book is filled with some great stories and a lot of practical advice.

The one piece of advice I'm immediately putting into play is to interrupt those folks who ask rambling 5 minute long questions after your talk. I guess the audience is just as disappointed to have to listen to the ramblings of a mad man as I am. However, you can do it politely. Just offer to take the persons super involved query off line and follow up with your email address so they can contact you.

There is also some good bits on "what can go wrong" during a talk. It's great to be prepared for problems. For instance, when I walk into a venue to do a talk I usually have my presentation in 3 separate locations, my laptop, a usb stick and Dropbox. So god forbid anything happens to one of them I have a redundant back up ready to go.

You might think that sounds a bit excessive but let me refer you back to my PhoneGap Day US talk. My laptop would mirror it's display with the projector so the audience would only be able to see the left half of my presentation. I didn't get freaked out about it, I just jumped on Tommy's laptop and did the presentation out of my Dropbox account.

But that was nothing compared to what Kristofer Joseph was able to pull off at September's PhoneGap Paris meetup. Kris was doing some live coding of Topcoat while presenting to a large Parisian crowd. Now that doesn't sound too bad but here is the picture:

Now you have to look at the top right hand corner of the picture to see Kris leaning over the railing on the second floor of this busy bar in Paris. He's presenting to the crowd down below while holding a hand mic, while typing on his computer, while a bunch of people sing happy birthday behind him. Yup, I will never complain about a tough presentation setup ever again.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Wow, I really hated this book the first time around. Wait wut? You hated a Neil Gaiman book? Yes, yes I did but with what I feel was good reason. You see I was on vacation and I had just finished Tim Powers excellent novel Last Call. The next book up in my queue was American Gods and I thought OMG! Neil Gaiman stole the plot for this book from Tim Powers. The two books are amazingly similar in a number of regards and since I read them back to back I was pretty upset with Mr. Gaiman at the time.

But then some time passed and I read an interview with Powers and Gaiman where they agreed that it was an odd co-incidence that the books seemed similar but there was no copying going on by either party so I read it again and loved it! This is actually the third time I've read the book as it was the October book in my book club and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it once again.

The book centers on an ex-con named Shadow. He gets out of jail a few days early in order to attend his wife's funeral. Rudderless after the loss of his wife he takes a job for Mr. Wednesday an embodiment of the Norse god Odin. While on the job Shadow criss crosses America with Mr. Wednesday trying to recruit the old gods, the ones immigrants brought to America, in a war against the new gods of America, the Internet, Fame, TV, etc.

It is a pretty great treaties on the conflict between spiritual beliefs and the new gods of technology. It does a good job of exploring the question of whether man creates gods or gods create men.

Also, it contains quotes from one of my favourite poems, The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats.

Monday, October 7, 2013

My PhoneGap Day US Talk on Speech Recognition

Back in July I went out to Portland to talk at PhoneGap Day US. The video has just become available so I figured I would post it up here. The talk I did at PhoneGap Day EU is very similar to this one with a bit of updated information and mostly new jokes.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Books I've Read This Week

Midnight Riot is the first book in the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. I'd actually been keeping my eyes out for this book for awhile but it isn't usually carried in North American books stores as near as I can tell. Yes, yes I know there is this thing called Amazon where you can order books online but when you to read list is hovering around 90 books you don't need to order any new ones. I ended up seeing this it in an English language bookstore in Amsterdam and I needed something to read on the train but I digress.

The closest comparable I can find for this book is the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher which is a good thing as that is a really fun series. Anyway, PC Peter Grant is just finishing his probationary period and is hoping to become a detective but after standing guard at a grisley murder scene he discovers that he can talk to ghosts. This leads to Peter being assigned to a special division of the London Metro Police that deals with super natural crime.

I really enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi is the second book in the Jean de Flambeur trilogy. I remember really enjoying the first book, The Quantum Thief, when I read it a couple of years back as it seemed fresh and original. This book to me seems to be a bit more chaotic and the science in this is more like magic. Plus it is short clocking in at about 300 pages. I guess what I'm saying is that I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would.